Arsenal will welcome Chelsea to the Emirates in the marquee Boxing Day Premier League fixture on Saturday evening.
The busy festive period in England is well and truly underway and the Premier League moves into Gameweek 15 of the 2020/21 season with the famous Boxing Day clashes. The big game this week will be played between Arsenal and Chelsea at the Emirates, with both sides desperate for all three points.
For Arsenal, 2020/21 has been nothing short of a nightmare. A season that promised much after the triumphant FA Cup campaign and a decent summer window has gone pear-shaped, with the Gunners sorely lacking ideas and imagination in their play. With no wins in their last seven Premier League games, Mikel Arteta & co. now ridiculously find themselves just outside the relegation zone.
Chelsea, on the other hand, have largely delivered on the promise that was cultivated by a stunning summer transfer window for them. However, back-to-back defeats against Everton and Wolves pegged them back a little before the Blues hit back with a 3-0 win over West Ham United this week. Now placed 5th, building momentum will be key for Frank Lampard and his charges in this busy period.
The corresponding fixture last season ended in a come-from-behind 2-1 win for Chelsea, courtesy late goals by Jorginho and Tammy Abraham after Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had handed the hosts an early lead. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Mikel Arteta has greeted a mixed bag of updates on the team news front ahead of the visit of Chelsea. On Saturday, the Arsenal manager could be bereft of the services of as many as three first-team players.
Thomas Partey is a certainty to miss out, as he continues to recover from a thigh injury. Meanwhile, Arteta is sweating over the fitness of Gabriel Martinelli and captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, neither of whom is expected to make the starting lineup against Chelsea. In some good news, though, Arsenal are set to greet the return of Granit Xhaka.
The former Arsenal captain is available after serving out a three-match suspension following his dismissal against Burnley. Xhaka should, in fact, be reinstated into the lineup straightaway, despite his petulant act when he saw red. Dani Ceballos could sit alongside him in the middle of the park in the hopes of pushing Arsenal forward efficiently.
In attack, the possible absence of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang means Eddie Nketiah should lead the line for Arsenal against Chelsea. Nicolas Pepe is a certainty too and the Ivorian will be deployed on the right flank. As for the left-wing, Bukayo Saka could be stationed in an advanced position, with former Chelsea winger Willian unlikely to get the nod owing to his recent struggles.
Saka’s move up the pitch means Kieran Tierney will be the left wing-back, with Hector Bellerin an automatic pick on the right flank. At the back, with Gabriel Magalhaes available again for a Premier League game, the three-man central defensive unit of Rob Holding, David Luiz and Gabriel picks itself, while Bernd Leno is the obvious choice in goal.
Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Leno; Holding, Luiz, Gabriel; Bellerin, Ceballos, Xhaka, Tierney; Pepe, Nketiah, Saka
Like his counterpart in the Arsenal dugout, Frank Lampard has a fresh injury concern hampering his preparations ahead of the short cross-London trip on Saturday. On Saturday, the Chelsea boss could have to make do without three first-team players.
Hakim Ziyech is a certainty to miss out against Arsenal, having not recovered from his hamstring complaint. In addition to the Moroccan playmaker, Chelsea could also miss out on the services of Reece James and Ben Chilwell, both of whom are major doubts for the game on Saturday.
Chilwell sustained a twisted ankle against West Ham United and could be given enough time to completely recover from the injury. In his stead, Emerson Palmieri is expected to get the nod in the left-back slot, with captain Cesar Azpilicueta taking his place on the right flank. At the heart of the Chelsea defence, there is no looking past Kurt Zouma and Thiago Silva.
Up ahead in midfield, Jorginho is likely to drop down to the bench, with Mateo Kovacic expected to be favoured in one of the three slots in the middle of the park. N’Golo Kante and Mason Mount will likely occupy the other two berths, with the duo being consistent performers for Chelsea this term.
Up ahead in attack, amid the continued absence of Ziyech, Timo Werner and Christian Pulisic pick themselves to be the two wide men. Tammy Abraham, though, should spearhead the Chelsea attack once again, following a strong display against West Ham, meaning Olivier Giroud misses out against former club Arsenal.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Mendy; Azpilicueta, Zouma, Silva, Emerson; Kovacic, Kante, Mount; Werner, Abraham, Pulisic
- Both Teams to Score – NO @ 2.00
- Full-Time Result – Draw @ 3.50
- Chelsea have lost just two of their last 17 Premier League meetings with Arsenal (W9 D6), with both of those defeats coming at the Emirates (0-3 in September 2016, 0-2 in January 2019).
- Arsenal lost this exact fixture 1-2 last season, despite being 1-0 ahead until the 83rd minute. In fact, the side scoring first won none of the three meetings in all competitions between Arsenal and Chelsea last season (D1 L2), with Arsenal coming from behind to win the FA Cup final in the most recent encounter.
- Arsenal haven’t lost any of their last 12 Boxing Day home games (W10 D2) since a 0-2 loss against Nottingham Forest in 1987. The Gunners have won each of their last nine such games in the Premier League, including a 2-1 victory over Chelsea in 2001.
- Chelsea lost 0-2 against Southampton on Boxing Day last season, ending a run of 14 games without defeat on 26th December (W9 D5). The Blues have not lost consecutive Boxing Day matches since 1995.
- Timo Werner is Chelsea’s joint top scorer this season with eight goals in all competitions, but he has failed to score in his last nine games.
Player to Watch
It has been a bizarre season so far for Timo Werner. The German international is the joint top scorer for Chelsea this term, with eight goals scored across all competitions. However, Werner is presently on a run of nine games without finding the back of the net.
For the most part this season, Werner has had the frustrating tendency of straying in an offside position. However, of late, he is not even getting into dangerous scoring areas. Having said that, Werner is set to continue his run in the side, with Hakim Ziyech still not fit enough to feature.
So, it is imperative for Werner to find a way to arrest his slump, otherwise, he could find his way out of the side. A London derby against Arsenal gives the 24-year-old the perfect opportunity to make his mark in the Premier League. Will Werner step up for Chelsea?
Arsenal 0-2 Chelsea
Arsenal just cannot do anything right at the moment. The Gunners have been horrendous in the Premier League, to say the least, but they are also being punished by individual errors, as was the case against Manchester City in the Carabao Cup this week. Chelsea should, therefore, fancy their chances of grabbing a big win over their local rivals.
The Blues have not been at their free-flowing best in the past couple of weeks or so, but facing an Arsenal side that has flattered to deceive for a long time could pave the way for an efficient display by the visitors. Expect Mikel Arteta & co. to frustrate the Arsenal fans again, with Chelsea slowly growing into the game before grabbing a 2-0 win on Saturday.